Studies have shown that environment, lifestyle, and diet can play a large role in how often you get migraines.
Migraine is a very common problem that affects about 18 percent of women and 6 percent of men.
Dr Elliot Shevel, medical director and founder of The Headache Clinic, says that the most commonly reported migraine triggers include alcohol (especially red wine and beer), chocolate, aged cheese, cured meats, food preservatives that contain nitrates and nitrites, and monosodium glutamate (MSG).
Although these are the most common, almost any food can be a trigger. Even so, only about 20 percent of migraine suffers have an identifiable food trigger.
There is no certainty why certain foods trigger headaches, but suggested mechanisms are as follows:
- CHOCOLATE: 22 percent of headache sufferers identify chocolate as one of their headache triggers. But many people with migraines have increased appetite and food cravings just before their headaches start. Reaching for a chocolate bar may be the result of a migraine, rather than the cause.
- ALCOHOL: Sulfites used as preservatives in red wine have been linked to migraine headaches. Alcohol in any drink causes the blood vessels in the scalp to dilate, and can also result in dehydration, both of which might be headache triggers. Alcohol is also a potent trigger for cluster headaches – otherwise known as “suicide headaches”. They are known as suicide headaches because the pain is so severe that sufferers do sometimes actually commit suicide.
- CAFFEINE: Caffeine can actually help get rid of a migraine headache, and caffeine may be included in some migraine medications, but too much caffeine can be a headache trigger when you come down from your caffeine ‘high’.
- AGED CHEESE: It is generally agreed that aged cheese is more likely to cause a headache, because it contains a substance called tyramine that forms as the proteins in cheese break down over time. The longer a cheese ages, the more tyramine it has.
- MSG: Monosodium glutamate (MSG), which is found in soy sauce and as a food additive, has been implicated in causing migraine. The interesting thing though, is that in cultures where MSG is used extensively, the percentage of migraine sufferers is the same as in other countries.
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